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Overall Rating
3.01

Awesome: 8.64%
Worth A Look32.1%
Just Average: 28.4%
Pretty Crappy: 13.58%
Sucks: 17.28%

6 reviews, 45 user ratings


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Intolerable Cruelty
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by EricDSnider

"Not the Coens' best work, but better than some people's best work."
4 stars

Though "Intolerable Cruelty" is set in the present day, its roots are in the screwball farces of the 1930s and '40s. It maintains a safe distance from the inner emotions of its characters (a Coen Bros. constant), puts comedy at center stage, and perpetrates such whimsy, such loopy wordplay, such manifest absurdity, that one is liable afterward to forget everything about it, except that it made one laugh.

Perhaps the film's modern setting is part of the joke. It is, after all, only the second film by writer/director brothers Joel and Ethan Coen NOT to be set at least a few years in the past ("Raising Arizona" being the other one), and yet it seems to belong there. Instead of doing a period piece, like usual, they've done an homage.

Or maybe it had to be set in 2003. The cavalier attitudes toward marriage and divorce exhibited by the central characters would have seemed out of place in 1940s society. Only in the 21st century could a character work to get his philandering, unfaithful client 100 percent of the assets in his divorce settlement without being viewed as a jackal by his fellow citizens.

George Clooney is that jackal, divorce attorney Miles Massey. He's legendary in the business. He drafted a pre-nuptial agreement so ironclad that law schools now teach it to their students. When a client tells him, "My wife has me between a rock and a hard place," he replies, "That's her job. You should respect that." And then he gets his client out from between the rock and the hard place and leaves the wife with nothing. He does this a lot.

But success has made Massey complacent. He wants a challenge. Then he meets Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the wife of the aforementioned philandering husband, Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann), caught on tape by devoted private investigator Gus Petch (Cedric the Entertainer). Massey is Rex's attorney, and as such must protect his interests and assets. But it won't be easy: Marylin, it seems, does this sort of thing for a living. She loves wealthy men, and loves to take everything when she divorces them. She never loses, but neither does Massey. One of them is bound for disappointment.

Thus begins a plot that is pure romantic-comedy, but marked by dialogue (which the Coens co-wrote with "Big Trouble" screenwriters Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone) that is pure screwball. There is "Who's on First?"-style banter, accompanied by highly literate lines spoken even by characters you wouldn't expect to be so literate. (As is often the case with the Coens, even the characters who only have one or two lines are as quirky and memorable as the leads.)

George Clooney loves to be a clown, and his enthusiasm here is contagious. He can stare down a witness with great severity, then shoot the judge a lightning-quick smarmy smile, all with perfectly fluidity and enviable comic timing.

He is well-partnered with Catherine Zeta-Jones, all elegance and conniving beauty, and no stranger to playing devilish women ("Chicago," anyone?). She is a soft balance to Clooney's buffoonery.

Billy Bob Thornton also has some priceless moments as Marylin's post-divorce sucker, and Richard Jenkins -- the dead dad on "Six Feet Under" -- gives marvelous befuddlement as her attorney. (He is especially fond of shouting "Objection!" in court without first coming up with the grounds for one.) And let's not forget Geoffrey Rush, a TV producer whose cheating wife had the good fortune to hire Miles Massey as her divorce attorney....

As funny as the film is, it is not a classic. It will be funny with a few more viewings, and a few years from now, it will fun to catch 30 minutes of it here and there when it plays endlessly on Comedy Central or somewhere. It doesn't have the sheer creative brilliance of "O Brother Where Art Thou?," for example, or the mad lunacy of "Raising Arizona," to name two of the Coens' other great films. But it's nice for now, and it has the funniest death of the year. Watch and see if you don't agree with me.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8243&reviewer=247
originally posted: 08/08/05 04:08:18
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User Comments

9/17/08 Stu Some good dialouge and Clooneys charm make this Hollywoodised Coen Bros. film watchable. 3 stars
6/11/08 PAUL SHORTT FULL OF FUN, GLAMOUR, ENTERTAINMENT & ENOUGH STAR POWER TO BLAST THROUGH ANY REPETITIVENESS 4 stars
11/16/06 Alyssa Hale Total Crap! Nothing more to say! 1 stars
3/22/06 R.W.Welch Passable comedy but lacks the early Coen off-the-wall flair. 3 stars
12/30/05 Agent Sands An immense amount of charm from the two stars, but the Coens are beginning a descent. 4 stars
8/14/05 Charlene Javier What a disappointment! 2 stars
8/01/05 Bad Critic Who really gives a crap about a couple spoiled retards who only care about money? 2 stars
4/17/05 Jeff Anderson Has it's cruel mind in the gutter. A sad & pathetic waste of time & unfunny to boot. 1 stars
12/08/04 Kristina Williams Clooney's smooth a hell 4 stars
11/26/04 alien assassin I've been workin' on the railroad !!! 4 stars
10/23/04 NJ Cup Winner 95-00-03 Clooney is doing Cary Grant, and that's quite a feat. Great flick! 5 stars
10/04/04 Josh Standlee I laughed so hard that at times I was fighting for air! Hilarious! 5 stars
9/25/04 VIctor Not a fan of Clooney but he's very good in this usually-funny satire; CZJ just okay 4 stars
9/05/04 psycho dwarf Like bike-race spectators you wait for long periods til the fun parts come & go too quickly 3 stars
8/19/04 Kaylee Lover Give me a break, a wasted 1.5 hours 2 stars
7/23/04 Jerry&Joan An unbelievable waste of time-This can only happen when actors are under contact. 1 stars
7/23/04 Sandy Turynowicz lots of laughs 4 stars
4/18/04 Martin Meant to be an over the top caricature. Most don't get it. Very funny if you are cynical. 5 stars
4/05/04 Agent Sands Story gets pretty contrived, but Clooney is one hilarious dude. Coens are slowly decreasing 3 stars
3/28/04 HorrorScribbler Not top-notch Coen brothers, but still pretty good. 4 stars
2/21/04 Mindy This movie was by far the biggest waste of my time in a while! I should've been paid. 1 stars
2/21/04 Denise Duspiva funny 3 stars
1/23/04 Chloe Brody A bit of fun 4 stars
11/26/03 Wendy Sue VERY funny in it's odd Coen way, just not alot of depth 4 stars
11/12/03 Helen Bradley slow pace 2 stars
11/11/03 Chris I like it but the film tired too much and we never feel Clooney and Zeta-Jones romance. 3 stars
11/08/03 Eddie Fan Worst movie ever made. Fucking boring waste of money. Zeta Jones can't act! 1 stars
11/06/03 Cameron Slick While not one of the Coen's better work, it's a worthwile entertaining goofball romantic. 4 stars
11/04/03 John Bale Cary Grant like Clooney and stunning Zeta Jones mix in Coen Bros magic. Much fun ! 5 stars
11/02/03 wrob Occasionally funny, but mediocre overall 2 stars
10/31/03 alien assassin Anyone who calls this film crap must be joking. Why don't you grow out of "Jackass" !!!!! 5 stars
10/30/03 Catherine Zeta Jones thinks her Welsh shit doesn't stink! (I can say that because I'm Welsh too.) 3 stars
10/30/03 Natasha Bly Guys in cast do best to pull humor out of harrowing subject; CZJ is her usual gigabrat. 3 stars
10/23/03 Jason King Found Clooney's mugging hilarious in its overstatement. One of the best movies of the year. 5 stars
10/22/03 DeeDee I watched it today and it was a waste of my money. It sucked big time. 1 stars
10/19/03 TheOthersFan if nothing else, a refreshing departure from the conventional romantic comedy formula 4 stars
10/18/03 Titus Not a worthy Cohen bros outing, but the stars are fun to watch. Worth matinee prices. 3 stars
10/16/03 no2coen Run! Run away. 1 stars
10/16/03 cpbjr Worth watching CZJ and GC 3 stars
10/15/03 Angry Black Man beautiful looking cast, but so-so movie. 3 stars
10/13/03 Lord Jiggy Enjoyed it a lot, a nice surprise. Clooney worked for me, so did the weird characters. 4 stars
10/13/03 harpoonflyby funnier than all hell. story sucked 4 stars
10/12/03 Ida A cute movie 4 stars
10/12/03 KCobain Horrid 1 stars
10/10/03 Michael Fantastically charming and wacky rom-com with an edge, & Clooney's best performance ever 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  10-Oct-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 10-Feb-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  23-Oct-2003




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